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Mind Over Matter

  1. Aug 18, 2005 #1
    Can thought move or effect matter? Thought is said to be subjective, insubstantial, with no physical existence or extension. The ability for physical matter to be effected in any way by pure thought at first glance seems to be an absurd impossibility. Yet it happens everyday, virtually every waking moment of our lives.
    For example, I have a thought. It forms into an idea that I want to share. This desire becomes my intention and I will my body to move, my finger to move, to press a key on my keyboard. Lo and behold my finger made of physical matter with mass moves. This motion is caused by pure thought, will, alone, which somehow initiates a chain of physical events and reactions, directs and orders force and energy to do my will and my finger moves pressing a key or clicking a mouse button. This initiates another chain of events that results eventually to symbols appearing on computer screens possibly thousands of miles away all around the world. You and others read these symbols and thus know my thoughts. From my mind to your mind all started and caused by will alone.
    Our thoughts, ideas, intentions and will have over thousands of years built and created our civilization, science, knowledge, technology and art, changing the world we live in, the way that we live and probably ourselves.
    Is this not god like, creation by thought and will?
     
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  3. Aug 18, 2005 #2

    Kerrie

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    For me personally, this is exactly what I think "god" really is...the will to transform energy from one place to another. Without this will/energy, life as we know it would not exist, nor carry on. It doesn't have to be "mystical", but it is wonderful.
     
  4. Aug 18, 2005 #3

    arildno

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    As I see it, the Cartesian (or Platonian, whatever) split between mind and matter has served as nothing but an obfuscation of these issues.
    As I see it, how should anything wholly unrelated to something else, and working along totally different principles ever be able to INTERACT with that other stuff??

    Thus, as I see it, what we call "mind" is definitely something "material" (if not an entity, at least some sort of "process" (wow! really deep of me that one..)),
    and thus, I cannot really see the problem in that what we are accustomed to call a mental phenomenon precedes what we are wont to describe as a material phenomenon, in a causative manner.
     
  5. Aug 18, 2005 #4
    re

    Good insight, but what our mind can control is only limited to our bodies. Perharps our brains will evolve someday, allowing us to have more degrees of freedom. Or even getting rid our bodies and living as pure energy.
     
  6. Aug 18, 2005 #5
    No, its not mystical. Its natural as I have said many times. That take nothing of the wonder nor wonderfulness away from it. On this we completely agree.
     
  7. Aug 18, 2005 #6
    I agree. There is no duality. There is only the one reality.

    So, obviously, they cannot be totally unrelated stuff or we as well as life could not exist, right?

    Yeah! What he said. I think.

    Speaking, in a manner, of Descartes and thinking, how about; 'I think; therefore, I do.' (Sorry obout that, all of you classicalist. I coudn't resist it any way the devil made me do it.
     
  8. Aug 18, 2005 #7

    arildno

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    Actually, I like Nietschze's criticism of the "I think" phrase rather well:
    I don't remember the exact words, but here's the gist:
    To say "I think" doesn't that convey an idea of a subject who does something, engages in an activity?
    But, isn't it a fact, that more often than not, that thoughts just seem to pop forth on their own into the mind?
    Where was the leading, controlling subject here?

    That is, we all to easily slip into ways of describing mental phenomena that, on further reflection, show themselves to be very poor, misleading statements..
     
  9. Aug 18, 2005 #8
    So far as we scientifically know our minds can only control our bodies. I won't rule out the occult or mystical as I just don't know. I have never done it and never witnessed a true demonstration of telekenetics. However, through our bodies we have learned to control with precision machines that are thousands of tons in mass to nanotechnology, look at individual molecules if not atoms and see billions of light years away and in the past.
    It matters not how or what our minds use to accomplish our wills, that is can and does accomplish its will, and that it manifests is non-material will in the material reality of the world is the point, a vital point.
     
  10. Aug 18, 2005 #9

    hypnagogue

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    Royce, what exactly is your support for the claim that thought causes bodily action? That claim is seductive, but it's not beyond reproach.

    What we observe in everyday life is that certain thoughts are correlated with certain bodily movements. However, that observation alone is not enough to draw the conclusion that thoughts cause bodily movements. There are other explanations that are equally consistent with observation that do not grant thought such causal powers. For instance, it could be that some neural mechanism N in the brain plays a part in the production of both thoughts and their corresponding bodily movements. In such a scenario, we would expect to see thought and bodily movement correlated, but we would not say that the thoughts cause the bodily movements.

    In short, you need to come up with a more compelling argument for the idea that thoughts have causal powers. Your observational premises do not entail your conclusion; indeed, the relevant observations seem to be equally consistent with alternative interpretations that refute your conclusion altogether.
     
  11. Aug 18, 2005 #10

    arildno

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    Sure, hypnogogue, but that makes thoughts into something wholly redundant in the functioning of the organism.

    Thus, it wouldn't be too implausible that natural selection would favour those individuals of a population who are more efficiently stream-lined (i.e are more or less without thougts)
    I.e, the undeniable presence of thoughts seems to be at odds with the principles of natural selection if thoughts were redundant; it seems a lot easier to assume that the thoughts DO have some vital function to play in the organism.
     
  12. Aug 18, 2005 #11

    hypnagogue

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    Thoughts might have a more modest role to play than is normally conceived. For instance, their cognitive role might be more interpretive than generative. For instance, the feeling I have that I have willed my arm to raise might be more of an after-the-fact kind of self-justification or interpretation of the act than it is a productive cause of the act. To be sure, such an interpretive role would still have to make a difference to the organism's behavior and survival at some level, but for this to be the case it need not be that things are exactly as they appear to us.

    There's also an added layer of complexity to this issue that has not yet been made explicit. Thought is a mental phenomenon, and for any cognitively explicit mental phenomenon M there are always going to be questions about its phenomenally conscious, experiential aspect (what it is like to experience M) vis-a-vis its functional aspect (what cognitive functions M is associated with).

    I do not deny that thoughts have some cognitive function, although I do question whether the cognitive function of thought is exactly as it seems to us. Whatever this function is, it should express itself in terms of brain activity.

    I do question whether the experiential aspect of thoughts makes any direct effective difference to the dynamics of the brain. It seems quite likely that an organism's behavior can be explained entirely in terms of the organism's physical dynamics, and it's not at all clear what relation phenomenal consciousness bears to those physical dynamics. Whatever the relationship between the two is, I strongly doubt that it is such that the experiential quality of thoughts effectively causes brain events that otherwise would not have occurred. There are a number of ways to conceive of the relationship between conscious mind and physical brain that do not involve effective causation from the former onto the latter. For instance, it might be that conscious experience is an ineffectual byproduct of brain processes, or it might be that conscious experience and physical brain activity are in some sense identical or "two sides of the same coin," etc.
     
  13. Aug 18, 2005 #12

    arildno

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    Well, I can't see that this double book-keeping idea has any merits beyond that of a "naive" view (my own).
    I do not see how it could explain better various experiences or behaviours, nor can I see that the naive view in any way has problems not faced by the double book-keeping thinking.

    Hence I don't see why I can't dismiss it by appealing to Occam's razor.
     
  14. Aug 19, 2005 #13
    arildno, maybe intelligent beings ARE redundant in the grand scheme of things, but then intelligence prevailed because it was impossible for the most intelligent being to not rise to the top of the local foodchain.

    However, intelligence is not redundant for the functioning of the organism personally.
    As I see it, there's 2 layers of reality, the subjective mental one, and the objective physical one.
    I do not believe kerrie has a compelling argument that mind can control matter, like hypnagogue said.
    I believe that mentally, we have a lot of control over our bodies, but then again if everything is physical, how can there be a mental layer of reality, and if there isn't a mental layer, isn't this control physical?

    As far as I see it, a neuron causes a thought, not the other way around, as such all thought is physical, except the subjective experience of the thought itself.
    As it is now, the thought itself carries with it a force, a force to change the way the brain observes an event, or the way it perceives it.
    For example, a guy is jealous that his wife is flirting with another guy, the jealousy itself is first person and subjective, but the reaction and emotion is physical in nature.
    However the guy would never have experience jealousy had he not had a first person mental life.
    The two seems completely unseperatable.

    The physical and the mental aspects of the brain seem in some things as the same, but in others as two completely seperate entities.
    They are completely different in the way that we can never explain a 1st person feeling in a 3rd person(aka mathematical, scientific or objective manner.)

    As for mind over matter, I believe that subjectively, we are somewhat controlling matter, because we are making choices everyday.
    The problem thus, is whether or not our choices are completely controlled by physical processes, or if the thoughts themselves can control the outcome of a physical process chain.
     
  15. Aug 19, 2005 #14
    IMHO thoughts can be both interpretive and generative. We have to be able to interpret the input to our senses to get an idea of our environment. However the point that thoughts are not generative is absurd because it ignores the creative and inventive thoughts lead to knew knowledge and technology. Quantum theory and Relativity are not intuitive and are out side of human experience. This precludes interpretive thought alone from coming up with these extremely accurate and verifiable theories.
    I may have thousands of thoughts, dreams etc where I think of my body or parts of my body move yet my body does not move until I will it to do so. We can even prevent some reactive movement if we so desire by overriding the nerve reactions by willful control such as preventing or forestalling a sneeze. If all movement was after-the-fact interpretation then how could we be able to consciously learn any new skill such as learning to ride a bike or hit a ball neither of which are inborn skills.

    The only way that I can see the above having anything to do with reality is if we were purely instinctual and reactive creatures, had no conscious willful control over our bodies. While I am sure that parts of our brain's functions and capabilities are this way, the part that makes us human or at least intelligent animals is cognitive, conscious and willful control of our bodies movements. We are not sharks that simple react to movements and smells in the water and attack and try to eat anything and everything there. Even sharks seem to have more conscious control than that.
     
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